My whole family has COVID-19

My whole family has COVID-19
The Isbell Family (Source: Shannon Isbell)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - I know that COVID-19 is easily transmittable. So, it is not surprising that an entire household could come down with the virus.

That is exactly what happened to my family of four – my husband, our daughter, my mom, and me. Only my husband and I have been officially diagnosed, but the experts say to assume everyone in the house has it. And we all have symptoms.

The Diagnosis

Mine started a week ago. I was tired and congested. I chalked it up to a cold because I didn’t have trouble breathing and I didn’t have a temperature. And my boss was getting over a cold, too. He was tested for coronavirus twice and both tests were negative. So, I was certain that I had just caught a cold from him. By Monday night, I was feeling much better, almost back to normal.

I traveled to Montgomery the following day with a colleague for work. That mistake led to quarantine for my co-worker and four others who work at the TV station where we were training. Thankfully, none of them are showing symptoms. Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure I won’t be on their Christmas gift list this year. And I am guessing they have grown weary of hearing and reading apologies from me for exposing them to COVID-19. I was thinking of maybe sending them flowers or something. What says, “I’m sorry I exposed you to a deadly virus?” Maybe a care package with some vitamin C would be a better option.

Fast forward to Thursday afternoon. I was having lunch with that same co-worker on our way back to Birmingham. I realized I couldn’t taste my Panera salad. Or smell the perfume I had sprayed on my wrists that morning. I decided I should be tested.

The next morning, I arrived at American Family Care in Hoover just before they opened. There was already a line of 20+ people. Some of them looked really sick. I didn’t want to risk being exposed to coronavirus, the flu or something else while standing in that line. Instead, I signed up online for a test at Main Street Family Care in Pelham. The sign up was quick, but I had to wait in my car for nearly five hours before I received a text to come inside. I had plenty of work to catch up on in the car, so the time went by quickly.

Once inside I waited another 20 minutes or so before being called back to an exam room. A tech asked the usual battery of questions and checked my vital signs. Then, I got the test. It wasn’t the one that goes all the way up your nose. She just rubbed Q-tips in both nostrils. And 25 minutes later I got confirmation of what I suspected was true. The test was positive for COVID-19.


Living up to its designation as novel, the virus has attacked each of us uniquely.

I’ll start with my husband’s symptoms first. His only real health issue is sinus congestion brought on by seasonal allergies. So, when he was congested and had a mild temperature last week, he thought it was his usual fall bout of sinusitis. It wasn’t until I tested positive that he even considered having coronavirus. And now that he is several days into the diagnosis, he is tired, congested and has a temperature that has not dipped below 99.7 degrees, despite a regimen of Tylenol every four hours.

My mom is our biggest concern. She is in her 70s and has type 2 diabetes.

“I feel rough. Tired. And my stomach is upset,” she said Tuesday night.

But, she also said that she has felt far worse with sinus infections.

She doesn’t have an appetite and she has had an almost constant headache since Saturday. But no chest pain or aches. She has spent a good portion of quarantine poking fun at me for sleeping so much. So, I know she isn’t too sick if she has the energy to give me a hard time!

Our 12-year-old daughter has the mildest symptoms: a stuffy nose and she has been a little tired.

“I can’t breathe!” she has said over and over. Inhaling steam and using Afrin are now her two favorite things.

She has kept up with her schoolwork but is taking every opportunity to lounge and watch endless hours of YouTube.

She can’t taste or smell anything either. She was craving Breakup cookies from Church Street Coffee and Bakery – they are the ultimate comfort food! And it has been one of the few things we can actually taste. (It is probably the four pounds of butter and sugar that are in each one.)

As for me, I have been congested and popped a temperature on Tuesday of 100.9. But the worst symptom has been exhaustion. I can’t sleep enough. I slept 10 hours last night. And while it doesn’t make sense, I’ve also been restless. I do not like a lot of downtime. I’m not good at sitting around for hours watching TV or relaxing. I like to be busy. I’m not a good patient. It makes me depressed if I’m unproductive for too long.

There are times, though, that we have all felt perfectly normal this week. It makes you think you’re on the mend. But then you start to feel bad again in just a few hours. I’ve never had an illness that ebbs and flows like this one. One minute you’re good and then the next your temperature has returned.

Takeaways and Some Advice

If you’re sick, stay home. Even if you think it is allergies or a cold. I didn’t. And I exposed a bunch of people.

Renew your library card and download the app on your phone. It will give you something to do when you’re stuck at home for days and your family is on your nerves.

Buy some board games so you can pass the time with your family before you’re driving each other crazy.

And prepare for being sick. Have some cold meds on hand to treat the symptoms. Buy a couple boxes of tissues and some Epsom salts for hot baths.

Some Silver Linings

If you look for it, you can find good in many situations.

Here are a few I’ve realized:

We will probably get the house decorated for Christmas early this year. And most of my shopping is done thanks to the Black Friday sales that started early.

My daughter is caught up on all her homework.

We are finally getting around to watching some of those Netflix series that have been on our to-do lists.

We have a critical care pulmonologist in our family. He has checked on us and hooked us up with the latest and greatest treatments. I know how lucky we are to have that kind of access to medical expertise.

Neighbors, friends, and co-workers have all offered to run errands for us. We’re thankful for kind people who care about our well-being.

And we are fortunate because our symptoms are mild. When I think about the thousands of people on life support and thousands more who have died, I have no complaints.

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